Sunday, August 9, 2015

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IIM CAT : Introduction of Calculators - Boon or Bane?

CAT 2015 has thrown almost a googly at all those who were busy preparing for the exam the traditional way. While one may tend to think that this is just an introduction of aid for the candidates and it should only help them save time. But it isn’t so at all. It would need candidates to develop a new strategy for tackling the exam based on this change. Though it is an added help available for the candidates, leveraging it effectively would only make it an advantage. If not used properly, it could vey well become a liability.

Now what are the implications of having calculator?

The calculator would definitely help to overcome the long calculations that candidates face in quantitative aptitude and data interpretation sections especially related to roots of numbers and trigonometric values. However, one should realize that most questions can actually be easily solved by reasoning and elimination of options rather than by reaching to exact answer. And this method of solving by reasoning is, more often than not, much faster and simpler. Here is where calculators would tend to divert your attention. When you have one at your disposal, calculations would not come in your way and you would be tempted to solve the question. When you do not have a calculator you would try to find an alternative way and that is how you employ the reasoning methodology.

Another issue with calculator is that once you have it you would start pressing keys as soon as you encounter a bunch of numbers with some arithmetic signs in between them. Now one needs to sub-consciously realize the costs and benefits of using a calculator. While the aid helps save time in long calculations, there infact is some “investment” in terms of time and effort of keys pressed. And this investment is more than the benefit when you have to calculate 2 + 2 or 10 - 420. This is how some of the candidates are going to lose some precious moments leveraging the new found aid at the cost of common reasoning. This would specifically also lead to people practicing lesser during their mocks as they would use calculators for their practice session too. Now all those who have given the exam in traditional way know how much adept you get to getting results (approximate) even for long calculations without needing any calculators by practicing day and night. Thus avoiding use of the calculators for simpler calculations is another challenge that candidates should be aware of.

Also there are ways in which a calculator may actually lengthen the process of getting an answer as at each step you would get your response in decimals. In case one is not careful, it is easy to resort to calculator for entire calculations when you should have actually calculated numerators and denominators separately. So when you end up with a 4.76 as answer and options containing 119/25, 241/35, 327/83 and 227/91, you again have one more step of calculations to impede that speed you need in that room. While this may not necessarily be a drawback of calculators, but it definitely warrants adequate practice for their use to get into the right mind-frame by the exam day.

So how to tackle this newly found challenge?
First of all the candidates need to be cautious in adopting the calculators and this added aid should be accepted with a pinch of salt. During practice, you should consciously try avoiding the use of calculators to the extent possible. You could use it during full scale mock tests but then you need to get into the mind frame when you inherently realize which calculations justify the need to those keys and which are better done by your own genius. Also once the official mock test is up in mid of October, the first thing you should do is to take that up and analyze what kind of calculator is being provided and understand its options and strengths. Once that is known, incorporate its use into your practice and align your mind with your strategy to conquer the exam by leveraging the tool to your benefit!

More strategies and preparation guidelines are available on Bracing to Bell the CAT? Here's some help for you!!

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